9 Great Long Road Trip Tips: Traveling by Car

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I love road trips, it’s stronger than me. That feeling of being in the middle of nowhere… you, your car and the road. A feeling that makes me feel free. a feeling makes me feel fragile and strong at the same time.

It’s strange to explain, but it’s as if in that moment you feel proud of your freedom, proud of your autonomy, but at the same time aware that that “bubble” could burst at any moment. The unexpected is always just around the corner.

Experiences in traveling on the road

Two episodes in my recent travels come to mind. Read HERE all the road trips destinations I visited.

First episode in traveling by car in a road trip

A few years ago in my road trip in Mexico i had left the airport in Cancun late as the plane had been delayed about 2 hours arriving late in the afternoon. On top of that, they had lost my suitcase. To make matters worse, the rental company had not been so lightning fast in delivering the car to me. In short, a series of concauses that led me to drive 200 km in the dark (on all the other blogs I had read not to drive in the evening for obvious reasons), on a straight road that could not be straighter.

Forest to the right, forest to the left. Keeping me company were only the headlights of the car in front of me. Again, I love traveling on the road but at that moment, during those 200 km, I was not so serene and happy. Along that stretch of Mexican road, that bubble of security was eroding from kilometer to kilometer.

Second episode in a road trip

In my trip to Morocco, along the road to the desert of Merzouga I had to pass through the small village of Rissani. Nothing was problematic, except that the main road, the one that passed through the center of the village, was closed for renovation. Ergo, there were detours for work in progress. Too bad there was the first sign, while the next ones were forgotten.

In short, I found myself wandering through the back streets of Rissani looking for the way to Merzouga. I admit that the bubble this time eroded directly with the first sign. These were the suburbs of Rissani (source google street view)

marocco rissani

At one point, not finding the way to Merzouga, I decided to get out and ask a guy intent on listening to music sitting on a low wall. He was most gracious, stopped listening to music and went to the middle of the road to show me the right way. His fellow villagers were a little less kind; in those exact 10 seconds I found myself dealing with, respectively:

  • 3 children who wanted to get into my car.
  • A truck that had to turn into my street.
  • Several mopeds passing left and right.

I still feel sorry for that nice guy who, caught up in the rush to get back to the car, I couldn’t even thank.

Moral of the story… I have told you these two short episodes to make you understand that traveling on the road is wonderful but it takes a spirit of adaptation, also you have to follow some small tricks that you learn with experience.

My tips for road trip traveling

With this article I want to give you some tips for traveling by car in any foreign country (they also apply to Italy); tips that come from my own mistakes, after all, by making mistakes you learn.

1 – The international driver’s license

The first tip for a road trip is necessarily this: regulations. Small piece of advice related to traveling abroad. Remember to inquire about the “International Driver’s License” talk even before you book the car.

You always need to inform yourself and not leave unprepared. The international driver’s license is nothing less than a translated driver’s license, but to obtain it you need to make an application to the DMV.

I emphasize that the international license is not only needed in the case of an on-the-road trip by car but also in case you want to rent a scooter or other vehicle that goes on the road. As for mopeds, quads, etc. Usually local renters tend to turn a blind eye. My advice, however, is not to risk it at all. The unexpected, as you have seen from my little experiences, is always just around the corner.

2 – Have travel insurance

This advice does not only apply to those traveling on a road trip, it always applies to those traveling by public transportation as well.

I recommend that you absolutely carry travel insurance always and in any case. In the case of those who like the road trips it is even more important since you are faced with many more risks and unforeseen events. It is no coincidence that in the article on the how to make a travel itinerary I included it as a key point.

Quoting part of the article:

“So, in summary creating a tourist itinerary:

  • With insurance it is by conscious and responsible people.
  • Without insurance in European countries is inadvisable
  • NOT USING insurance in non-European countries is reckless
  • Without insurance in USA/Canada is foolish irresponsible”

3 – Using a free Navigator without a data connection

One of my first road trips was to Scotland, a good 11 years ago. I was together with two other friends of mine and, at that time (it’s very old but it fits), I was using the Nokia Communicator 9500 for work.

nokia communicator

This little phone shack allowed the use of navigation.

I spent days and days before the trip looking for maps to plug in. I found them, succeeded. Too bad the cell phone would not hold a charge (years go by but problems don’t go away) and at the same time it would lose signal or get bogged down. The result was that every 3×2 we had to go back to the old map sometimes going randomly.

Times have changed, today to travel on the road and not take a wrong turn just open Maps on your phone and say “Ok google, take me to… “. Despite this, it happens that the data connection is not always there, or in certain countries the data consumption of the navigator is not compatible with the rates of your phone companies. I would avoid spending tens and tens of euros to use the cell phone navigator in Mexico, just saying.

My advice is to use navigators that can work offline with just a gps signal. They obviously won’t give you real-time traffic information but they allow you to not necessarily have to buy a data SIM card in the country where you will be traveling. Personally I have always been happy with the Sygic app but just do a search online to find other articles related to offline navigators, there are quite a few. As soon as I get a chance I will try others and update this article.

4 – Assess the trunk properly

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s not at all.

On road trips, it is important to keep in mind that as you move from location A to location B, you will have to make stops in between. Overnighting at your destination, you will probably have planned along the way to visit a given scenic spot, a museum, a particular village, or more simply stop at a restaurant on the way.

Even as you go about your daily routine of life, I imagine you will try not to leave anything in your car in sight so as to avoid possible theft.

viaggiare on the road

Well, all that remains is to apply the same concept during an on-the-road trip. If you rent a car with little trunk space, I hypothesize a Citroen C1, and then you bring two 30kg cases each, understand well that one of them will have to be in the back seats at all times. My advice, which more than advice is a common sense practice, is:

  • Adjusting luggage packing according to the car rented.
  • Rent a car that allows you to carry all non-“moving” luggage in the trunk

During my on-the-road trips, traveling as a couple I often organize with a couple of trolleys (one large and one medium) and 2 small backpacks for the daily commute. I always try to rent a car that allows me to fit both trolleys in the trunk. You may also be interested in Online car rental? 8 Useful Tips

5 – Evaluate additional driver for long distances

People who travel on the road are certainly not having a relaxing trip. Traveling by car means driving for miles and miles. On the trip to Mexico i did about 2,700 kilometers in the space of 15 days, not a few.

And before fatigue or the usual unforeseen events get the upper hand, it is good to consider buying the additional driver. This is usually about 4 or 5 euros a day extra to be paid at the rental desk if you decide already on site, or online if you opt already when booking to use the additional pilot.

I must say that in some cases it has been crucial. During an on-the-road I happened to be unwell, to have a high fever because of the fateful Curse of Montezuma. It would have been almost impossible to drive, having paid on the additional driver I had no problem. Be careful not to be smart.

Do not drive in multiple people unless you have signed up for the additional driver. If you are stopped by the police or in the worst case scenario you get into a minor accident, you could be in trouble. Same as I was telling you about the international driver’s license, as long as nothing happens we are all happy and content, when that something happens you then have to take a good look at your cards.

6 – Blood alcohol content, local regulations

In the previous advice I told you about police. In my recent road trip to Normandy i happened to even have to take a blood alcohol test. I had never before been stopped on a road trip to check whether or not I had been drinking.

viaggiare on the road

Just that night I was completely sober, not even half a drop of wine at dinner, so I was proud of my 0.0 on the cop’s machine.

The probelm was, however, different..it’s this one: I did not know how much the limit was. Some countries don’t even allow the canonical 0.5 gr/lt, best to inquire before you leave. If you can, also inquire if there are particular road rules to follow.

7 – Always get gas even if you are not on reserve

Never and I mean never take an on-the-road trip to a foreign country with your car on reserve. Remember to fill up whenever you are under half a tank.

If you find a gas station lose those 5 minutes of time but fill up. It has often happened to me to be on reserve and not know how many kilometers away the next gas station was. In Mexico it even happened to me at night.

Moral of the story: get gas as soon as possible, anyway in most cases you have to return the car with a full tank, so much better to “get ahead.”

8 – Left-hand drive? An important article for you

In your career as an on-the-road traveler, it may happen that you want to visit a country with driving opposite to Italian driving. Well, I wanted to summarize the whole thing in an article on purpose that I will link below these lines.

Even though you will have made several on-the-road trips to the most diverse countries, left-hand drive always gives you anxiety, which is why I recommend this one How to Drive on the Left Side

9 – Road Trip Traveling = needing to know where to park

There is no doubt that an ontheroad trip is synonymous with freedom and carefreeness. Of course, when we are in a city in some foreign country, knowing in advance where to park is really important. I have found myself several times in the condition of not knowing where to leave the car for a multi-day stop.

This aspect is very important, and for this very reason I want to advise you to book online on an industry portal. I recommend it as you can view the parking lots in your destination and with a few simple steps book and get to the desired parking lot. It solves no small problem!

With these little tips, I am sure that your next on-the-road trips are sure to have a… extra gear!


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